Divorcing Your Corporate Identity

Divorcing Your Corporate Identity
Divorcing Your Corporate Identity

A man (we’ll call him Jim) attended one of our workshops recently wearing a golf shirt embroidered with a well-known corporate logo. Jim smiled and handed me his business card displaying the same corporate logo, but with his mobile number penciled in. Four months earlier, that well known corporation handed Jim his exit papers and told him he was no longer needed after 19 dedicated years.

Months after being let go, Jim still identified closely with his former employer. He talked as if he still worked there. Jim had been entrenched in the company’s culture for two decades, and interestingly, so was his wife. She’d grown accustomed to perks and had befriended the spouses of Jim’s corporate colleagues. For many years, part of her identity was being the spouse of an executive at a prestigious corporation.

I see this scenario often, especially among executives in their late forties and fifties. Too young for retirement, but also well adjusted to the corporate lifestyle, many people find themselves searching for a new identity. It may feel as though you’re starting from scratch in trying to figure out a new way to create income and prepare for retirement while also finding "your place." The challenge is often not just about the dollars and cents; it’s also about reinventing your sense of self.

It’s not an over-exaggeration to say the journey of moving from long-term corporate life to a business ownership lifestyle involves a rebirth of personal identity.

There comes a point in your business ownership exploration when you find yourself staring this issue squarely in the eye. It happens when the alter is in sight and you’re about to say “I do” to move forward with starting your own business.

Several years ago, one of my clients, a former Operations VP for a Fortune 500 company, stood at this alter. After several weeks of intense due diligence he and his wife found themselves about to move forward with a commercial cleaning franchise. His extensive research indicated this business would be a solid financial decision that would allow their family a better quality of life. The mission and values of the franchise company aligned with his own. Still, when decision time came, he still found himself looking in the mirror and asking himself, “really, cleaning?” Going from an executive’s office to selling commercial cleaning services was a leap that, in the moment, was difficult to grasp. In the end, he decided to push through because the benefits of making the change far outweighed his fear of doing something new. Not only has his business enjoyed year after year growth, his new identity as a business owner has intangible benefits he never thought of before. He is now able to spend more time with his family and be much more involved in his community, something he never had time to do while commuting three hours a day to his corporate job.

Keep in mind this transformation is not just yours; your spouse has to willingly be along for the ride. I’ll never forget a physician I worked with who was sick of being a doctor and desperately wanted to find a new way of life. His wife, however, was not present at our consultations and was not participating in his franchise due diligence. He started getting push-back from her when the altar was in sight and when I did finally meet with them together, I realized he was hoping I could somehow convince her to support his dreams. She turned to him and pronounced, “I married a doctor, and a doctor you will be.” Our meeting ended about 45 seconds later.

Ultimately, you have to decide if your desire for the rewards you seek from business ownership is stronger and more important than your natural urge to hang on to the identity you've known.

The good news is, there are countless examples of people (just like you) who've successfully crossed the Rio Grande from the old to the new and only regret not having done so earlier. Check out Jay's story about how he went from corporate HR Director to leader of an award winning family business in a marketing communications franchise and "he's never been happier."

If you'd like to see what new identity is waiting for you beyond the corporate walls, consider attending one of our local events.

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